Apr 092020
 

In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.

local h cover songs

Tomorrow, veteran rock band Local H releases its ninth album, the Steve Albini-produced LIFERS. It is a weird time to be releasing an album. Many major artists have postponed releases, with no way to properly promote them. One of the best live rock bands out there, Local H can’t play any shows to support it. So tonight they’re doing a live streaming show on their Facebook page tonight. Guarantee it will rock a little harder than the acoustic guitar’d singer-songwriters dominating the quarantine streams.

LIFERS doesn’t include any covers, but frontman Scott Lucas has been covering a new song every day on that same Facebook page. He has a different cocktail for each one, and even dresses up for some of the performances, from yacht-rock leisure to the Tiger King. It’s a long way from the self-serious stereotype of the ’90s grunge band. But even when Local H was a ’90s grunge band, they always had a sense of humor (see “Eddie Vedder,” “All the Kids Are Right”). And they’ve outlasted most of their peers, continuing to record killer albums to an extremely passionate fanbase. LIFERS is the perfect album title.

So we decided to ask Scott about his own favorite covers, which he ranked from number five to number one. Here’s what he said: Continue reading »

Apr 032020
 

Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.

Joe Pernice

If Joe Pernice flies below the radar, it’s seemingly with a bit of pride, or blithe indifference. Consider the title of his live concert DVD: “Nobody’s Watching/Nobody’s Listening.” That didn’t come from a branding consultant.

He’s released 17 recordings over the years, but all under different monikers. The Scud Mountain Boys, Pernice Brothers, Chappaquiddick Skyline, Roger Lion, and The New Mendicants, to name a few. He’s even recorded and performed as Joe Pernice on occasion. A restless artist unconcerned with continuity, he’ll disband a band only to reform it decades later. He’s been known to ditch a completed album at the final mixing phase. And now and then Pernice falls into radio silence: during those stretches he is writing poetry, fiction, and (to pay bills) tv cop show scripts. However an artist gets on the radar in the music biz, this is not the recommended flight path.

Nothing changes the fact that Pernice is a top-notch singer and composer. When it comes to covers, his choices are inspired. They appear quirky at first, or even jokey in some cases. But then you listen, getting drawn in by Pernice’s plaintive voice. You then get stirred, you find new admiration for a song that you had condescended to or shrugged off. The song needed the Pernice treatment to get through.

See for yourself. Here’s a half-dozen choice covers from a quarter-century worth of Joe Pernice output. Add them to a playlist and name it “Somebody’s Watching/Somebody’s Listening.” Continue reading »

Dec 172018
 
best cover songs of 2018

Two things strike me as I scan through our list this year. This first is that many of the highest-ranking covers are tributes to recently-deceased icons. No surprise there, I suppose. But none actually pay tribute to artists that died in 2018. They honor those we’ve been honoring for two or three years now – your Pettys, your Princes, your Bowies. Hundreds of covers of each of these legends appeared in the first days after their deaths, but many of the best posthumous covers took longer to emerge.

Good covers take time. That principle – the cover-song equivalent of the slow food movement, perhaps – holds true throughout the list. Sure, a few here appear to have arisen from sudden moments of brilliance, flash-arranged for some concert or radio promo session. But many more reveal months or even years of painstaking work to nail every element. Making someone else’s song one’s own isn’t easy. These 50 covers took the time to get it right.

– Ray Padgett, Editor-in-Chief

Start the countdown on the next page…

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Dec 142018
 

Follow all our Best of 2018 coverage (along with previous year-end lists) here.

best covers albums 2018

Two of the albums on this year’s list have similar titles: This Is Not Our Music and These Are Not Mine. Clever titles for collections of cover songs, sure, but misleading. Not your music? Why not? Songs are anyone’s for the singing. Even if a song’s lyrics or chord sequence didn’t first spring from a certain performer’s brain, that doesn’t mean he or she has any less claim. The great cover performers make the songs theirs, no matter whose they were before.

The twenty records below each contain numerous examples of artists doing just that. The songs may not have started out as these artists’ – but they are theirs now.

– Ray Padgett, Editor-in-Chief

Start the countdown on the next page…

NEXT PAGE →

Apr 122018
 

In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.

juliana hatfield covers

Juliana Hatfield is an old hat at making an unlikely song her own. Earlier this year, she made both our Best Cover Songs of January and March roundups. A couple years before that, her version of “Needle in the Hay” was a high point of a Wes Anderson tribute album. A couple years before that, she released a terrific self-titled covers album of her own. I mean, how far back do we want to go here? Hell, she even made our Best Cover Songs of 1996 list! Suffice to say, she knows how to crush a great cover.

That’s why we were so excited to hear about Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton-John, which comes out tomorrow. It more than lives up to our high expectations. Hatfield takes on hits like “Physical” alongside plenty of deep cuts that prove this is not some gimmick; she’s a genuine fan. Continue reading »

Mar 302018
 
best cover songs of march

Disclaimer: Our monthly “Best Cover Songs” aren’t ranked, and the “Honorable Mentions” aren’t necessarily worse than the others (they’re just the ones we had the least to say about).

Angelique Kidjo – Born Under Punches (Talking Heads cover)


Goddammit, Angelique. We spent weeks compiling our Best Talking Heads Covers post, and only days after we finish, you announce a full Remain in Light tribute album. Judging from this first single, it’s going to be pretty amazing too. Continue reading »